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Legalising drugsDebates and dilemmas$
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Philip Bean

Print publication date: 2010

Print ISBN-13: 9781847423757

Published to Policy Press Scholarship Online: March 2012

DOI: 10.1332/policypress/9781847423757.001.0001

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Prohibition, economic liberalism and legal moralism

Prohibition, economic liberalism and legal moralism

(p.11) 2 Prohibition, economic liberalism and legal moralism
Legalising drugs

Philip Bean

Policy Press

This chapter examines radical proposals on the debate on legalising drugs. First, it determines what is meant by prohibition, which is the major policy of choice in the UK, and in almost all other countries. Second, the chapter contrasts this with economic liberalism, and sets both against a rights-based argument from the legal moralists, the central feature being that adults have a moral right to use recreational drugs, and it is no business of governments to take that away. Prohibition has remained a resolute government position, irrespective of its political hue. Economic liberalism applies to that small but eloquent group of economists who define liberalism in terms of a libertarian position arising from a free market. Mark Thornton offers a forceful version of economic liberalism in the US; he calls it ‘perfect legalization’ where ‘perfect’ means elimination of government intervention in the market. Legal moralist are those who regard the intrusion of the law as a violation of the fundamental rights to use recreational drugs, and as such means an unjustified intrusion of the state in the personal lives of its citizens. Legal moralists are not advocating the use of drugs; they simply assert that an individual has the right to use them if they want to.

Keywords:   drug, prohibition, economic liberalism, legal moralism, policy, government

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